Read Mark 15:1-47
One of the most important verses in Mark’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus states clearly that he came to give his life as a sin-payment, taking the place of many people. He is saying that he came to die in the place of sinners.
In Mark’s Gospel, we see examples of Jesus substituting himself for others. We first see it in chapter 1, when he takes the place of the leper, having to remain out in desolate places like the leper had to before Jesus healed him (Mark 1:40-45). Then, we get this statement in the middle of the Gospel explaining that his mission was ultimately about substituting himself for sinners. Finally, in the crucifixion itself we see Jesus substituting himself for a sinner named Barabbas.
Barabbas was a “rebel” who had apparently been arrested shortly before Jesus. The punishment for his crime would have been crucifixion. On this particular Friday, there were three men already scheduled for crucifixion, and Barabbas was one of them. The religious leaders stir up the crowd to request the release of Barabbas and then to call for the crucifixion of Jesus. The middle cross had Barabbas’s name on it, but Barabbas was set free and Jesus was hung on that middle cross.
Barabbas’s name is really no name at all; it means “son of a father,” and that name could fit any one of us. Ultimately, my name was on that middle cross. So was yours. Yet, Jesus died on that middle cross, crucified for crimes he did not commit, paying a judicial penalty for sins of which he was not guilty. Barabbas was guilty. We are guilty. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many.